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Sports Saturday

Pity series: Cubs, White Sox meet just as both teams are reeling from terrible week

It should have been a celebration of two good teams as they rollicked and rolled to the playoffs, which begin Tuesday. Instead, it’s two teams lying in crumpled heaps after falling through trap doors in the floor.

Neither the White Sox nor the Cubs are in great shape as they close the regular season at Guaranteed Rate Field this weekend.
Neither the White Sox nor the Cubs are in great shape as they close the regular season at Guaranteed Rate Field this weekend.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Crosstown Slowdown?

The Dread Line Series?

The Windy Pity?

We blinked, and the regular-season-ending weekend set between the Cubs and White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field lost much of its electricity, its pizzazz, its mojo. It should have been a celebration of two good teams as they rollicked and rolled to the playoffs, which begin Tuesday. Instead, it’s two teams lying in crumpled heaps after falling through trap doors in the floor.

The postseason still beckons for the Cubs and Sox, whether or not either team is ready for it. It’s still the first time since 2008 that both teams are playoff-bound, which probably means we all should be savoring this. There’s still a chance — don’t laugh! — the Cubs and Sox will meet in the World Series for the first time since 1906.

You remember 1906, don’t you? The ‘‘Hitless Wonders’’ Sox upset the mighty Cubs in six games. Those Sox hit a paltry .230 that season. Hey, that’s only 19 points better than the 2020 Cubs.

It’s not going to be any fun, but let’s quickly recap the last week or so in Chicago baseball.

The Sox went 1-6 on the road and were swept — maddeningly — in four games in Cleveland. The Sox twice lost to the Indians on walk-off home runs. In the series finale Thursday, they blew a late three-run lead that was so much worse than that sounds because of the bumbling of manager Rick Renteria. It’s hard to decide what was more egregious: sending careerlong starter Carlos Rodon — active for the first time since Aug. 3 — into that game in high-leverage relief or keeping Lucas Giolito in for a career-high 119 pitches earlier in the series. Whatever the answer, Renteria must be on thin ice with his bosses.

‘‘If everybody wants to put it on me,’’ Renteria said, ‘‘put it on me.’’

That’s not going to be a problem.

The Cubs entered the opener Friday on the South Side in a 1-5 slide that included three consecutive losses to the Pirates, the worst team in baseball. There really are only two ways to lose three in a row in Pittsburgh. One is by scoring a total of three runs in those games. The other is by being the Pirates.

How bad are the Cubs at hitting the baseball? Their best hitter for much of the season, Ian Happ, came home in a miserable slump. Parades are thrown in the dugout when Anthony Rizzo homers because no one else ever does. Did we mention Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant all are batting below .200? After the 2018 season, president Theo Epstein called the offense ‘‘broken.’’ This is far worse.

‘‘We have to get going,’’ manager David Ross said.

There’s a concept.

It’s hard to know what to make of the White Sox and Cubs, other than that they’ve been, well, made. Revealed. Exposed.

With Tim Anderson in a mini-slump and Luis Robert in a giant one, the Sox aren’t the Murderers’ Row group they were for 50 games. With a manager who never has been considered deft at handling a pitching staff, any wiggle room disappears in a hurry. And the Cubs? Their 13-3 start was their wiggle room. They’re well below .500 since.

Days from the start of the playoffs, these teams are what they are: long shots.

Perhaps a weekend spent playing each other will be the kick in the pants the Sox or Cubs need. Who knows? Maybe in some way that’s too far-fetched to imagine, it’ll relight the fire under both teams. Then we might see mojo. Then we might do a little celebrating. Then we might watch them meet again — this time in a bubble in Texas, for all the marbles.

Or not. Yeah, probably not.